I first learned about Athletic Greens when I read the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. I remember being so pumped after reading that book that I wanted to try everything he talked about, and one supplement that came up again and again was Athletic Greens. Here are a few direct quotes from the book:
My favorite greens supplement, “Athletic Greens” (mentioned in the schedule) doesn’t contain caffeine but will also help.
Prebiotics are fermentable substrates that help bacteria grow and thrive. In this category, I’ve experimented with organic inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, commonly referred to as FOS. For a host of reasons, I prefer inulin, which I get through the Athletic Greens mentioned previously.
Athletic Greens: This is my all-in-one greens insurance policy. It contains 76 ingredients, including inulin for improving bacterial balance.
I mean, when Tim Ferriss endorses a product by saying that it’s his favorite greens supplement how can you not want to try it?
When I went over to www.athleticgreens.com in 2010 I hesitated…
For two main reasons:
1. Subscription model – This is a product that can only be purchased directly from the Athletic Greens website. You can’t find it at your local GNC or Vitamin Shoppe. You can’t even find it on Amazon. And when you place an order, you can’t just do a one shot deal, you have to sign up for a monthly subscription.
I’ve always been hesitant about products that are subscription based. I’m not entirely sure why, but part of me just doesn’t like the idea of a fixed expense that will renew itself automatically without me having a say in it. It doesn’t make sense, but I feel more comfortable clicking the purchase button myself whenever I need it rather than having my credit card charged on autopilot.
I also remember having some bad experiences in the past when I’ve tried to sign up for a free trial (to get free stuff!) and.. completely forget to cancel the subscription before my credit card gets charged… then have to deal with the headache of trying to cancel the subscription which can inevitably only be done by phone… which requires punching in a bunch of numbers to get to a robot… which then requires punching more numbers until a real live human is reached… who may or may not be working under direct orders to give me as hard a time as possible to prevent me from cancelling.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
2. Price – A 30 day supply goes for $97 with a bit of a break for a 60 day supply which goes for $177.
Spending almost a hundred bucks a month for a supplement is quite a bit for me… let alone subscribing to that monthly. I mean it’s more than my monthly cell phone bill with data plan!
So making this sort of financial commitment required a little more research. I’m sorry Tim Ferriss… but I needed a little more!
The Search for More Information
Because Athletic Greens can’t be purchased at your typical online or bricks and mortar retailer, you don’t get the typical list of online reviews. A google search brings up only a few smatterings of posts here and there, and when I read them I wasn’t sure if I was reading a spam site or special marketing ad (I know… I have a healthy sense of internet skepticism, but what do you want?! It’s almost $100 a month!)
I even took to posting on various forums to see if I could get a sense of what others have to say. Here’s one of the threads I started on paleohacks.com, and you can see from some of the responses that other folks were also uncomfortable with the way the product is marketed and had some bad experiences.
With the dearth of information out there… I didn’t have enough to cause me to part with my hard earned greenbacks.
ENTER: Shift Work
After a couple months of doing shift work and having my sleep completely screwed up, I started getting desperate. I was tired of waking up with only 4-5 hrs of sleep, feeling exhausted, brain foggy, unmotivated, and just plain terrible.
I started experimenting with various supplements and anything else that could help my sleep. I even got into sleep tracking to help me better figure out how different things affected my sleep. I tried a strict ketogenic diet and even played around with resistant starch!
While some of the things I tried helped… I could tell that I needed something else.
Tim Ferriss Returns
It was about this time that Tim Ferriss released his latest book The 4 Hour Chef and launched his podcast. I had forgotten all about Athletic Greens and now that Tim was back in my consciousness I started thinking about it again.
Things got to the point where I was so sleep deprived and felt terrible enough that I was wiling to try anything… even part with my $97 for a subscription based supplement that didn’t have many online reviews out there.
Turns out, shipping is $7.95, so the total came out to $104.95.
At this point I didn’t care… I just wanted something! I was willing to deal with the prospective headache of having to call in and cancel my subscription if I didn’t like it!
Fast Forward 4 Months
I’m a convert and I’m still taking it… and I’m happy to have my credit card billed on auto-pilot. Why? Because I can feel the difference. But before I go into why, I should probably talk a little about the supplement itself.
I’m not going to pretend to that I’m an expert in any of this, but I wanted to point out a few things:
- It has both prebiotics and probiotics
- It almost has the entire Tim Ferriss PAGG Stack (policosanol, alpha-lipoic acid, green tea extract, garlic) with the exception of garlic
- The folate that is used is in the 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) form as opposed to folic acid which cheaper supplements use. While I can’t get into every detail, the difference between the two is basically this:
- 5-MTHF is the natural form of folate, found in leafy greens and liver (yuck).
- Folic acid is a synthetic compound that is not found in nature. It requires special processing by the liver to be converted into the active form, 5-MTHF. If you take too much folic acid, you can overwhelm the liver which then allows folic acid to romp around your blood stream causing problems (like cancer). The other bad thing is that up to 10-40% of the population is less effective at making the conversion in the liver, making it even easier to overwhelm their systems.
- Chris Kresser has a great article if you want to read more on this.
- They don’t use anything GMO, gluten, dairy, eggs, or peanuts
- The only two things missing that I would’ve liked are fish oil and vitamin D… but I understand that you can’t have it all, and adding these probably would’ve made things too difficult.
Macronutrients and Ketosis?
Protein – 4 gm
Carbs – 4.8 gm (1.9gm fiber)
So of course the first question I had when I started taking this was, “Will this kick me out of ketosis?”
The answer is no! I’ve tested it multiple times and it does absolutely NOTHING to be my blood sugars and blood ketones. If I’m in ketosis, I’ll stay in ketosis… and if I’m out of ketosis, well… I’ll stay out of ketosis.
I actually think it tastes good. The stevia sweetens it, and to my undiscerning palate it tastes a little fruity. Because it’s such a deep green color, I half expected it to taste like grass or something… like those folks in Jamba Juice who take shots of wheat-grass and have sour puss faces for the next few minutes. But surprisingly it tastes kind of nice.
Let’s not kid around, I mean this isn’t something I would crave on a Carb Nite or cheat day, but I’ve actually found this to be a pleasant, low key way to start the day.
On top of that, the BJJ Cavewife, actually doesn’t mind the taste either… and she is notoriously picky about all the weird supplements I try to give her. She actually wouldn’t go so far as to say this tastes good… but for her it’s tolerable and the benefits outweigh the taste.
It’s important to mix it with at least 1 – 1.5 cups of water. If you make it too concentrated, then it can taste too strong going down, and is very unpleasant… I’ve tried shooting it before and learned the hard way.
A few cubes of ice to keep it cool also help the taste.
I should also mention that I always keep it in the fridge which they recommend after opening because of the probiotics.
How I use it
Because of the price, this isn’t something I use every day. I make sure to use it on days I know I’m working overnight, and since usually my overnight shifts are for 7 days straight, I add an extra scoop or two when I get to the middle to end of the week… around when I can tell my body is feeling beat up.
I also like to use it a few days before and after an over seas trip when I know I’ll get affected by jet-lag and exposed to all the nasty crap on airplanes.
I make generous use of it when I’m sick or feel like something is coming on. Just recently, the BJJ Cavewife and I got knocked out by a really bad upper respiratory infection. And to make matters worse this happened when I was schedule to work one of my overnight weeks… So I made sure to take at least 4 scoops a day (when you buy it, they send you an e-book for this exact occasion, and recommend 4 scoops)… and by the 6th or 7th day I was feeling 100%.
The BJJ Cavewife on the other hand… who doesn’t have to work night shifts was still sick after 7 days… and needed another 7 days (2 full weeks) until she felt back to normal. In fact things got so bad that she had to take antibiotics because she had a bacterial super-infection.
It was this experience that convinced her of the merits of this strange green drink I was chugging every couple of hours.
I’ve also noticed that I feel less sore on days after a hard work out. I’m not sure why that is… maybe because of all the antioxidants and nutrients, but yeah, I definitely make sure to take a scoop or two after a tough session.
One more tip… just use water. The BJJ Cavewife and I have both tried this in almond milk and regular milk (grassfed of course) and we both agree, water is the best.
How I feel when I drink it
When I take it at the start of the day I just feel better.
I’d be lying if I said it was life changing and made everything rainbows and unicorns… but I just felt better.
On normal days when I wake up after a graveyard shift, and only get 4-5 hrs of sleep (I’m telling you… my circadian rhythm is screwed up), I feel terrible. I wake up exhausted, with brain fog, lack of energy, lack of motivation, and generally pissed off at the world.
On days I take Athletic Greens, I feel…
Less brain fog…
Again, let’s not kid ourselves here, I would much rather have a full, undisturbed 8 hours of sleep above any supplement because a good-night’s sleep brings me the closest to rainbows and unicorns of anything out there… AND it costs me absolutely nothing.
But that’s not the world I live in. I live in a world where I’m a shift worker with a jacked up circadian rhythm, so I’m willing to take anything that helps me out, and this definitely helps me out. I just feel better.
Can I say for certain that it’s not placebo effect? No… Do I feel this every single time I use this? No… but I’m convinced enough to let my credit card get auto-billed and I’m more than happy to continue doing this…
at least until someone is able to put the equivalent of a good-night’s sleep in a pill, because then I’d be like:
This was the part that I was most worried about. I really didn’t want to deal with a company that says they provide ‘customer service’ when all they actually do is give you the run around.
Before I could recommend this product in good conscience, I had to see how easy it would be to cancel or suspend a subscription.
I simply went to the Athletic Greens contact page and dialed their “Customer Happiness Agent” number, pressed a button to indicate that I was an existing customer and… BOOM a real live person! I didn’t even have a chance to check twitter!
I told him that we were leaving the country for a few weeks and wanted to suspend my subscription. He simply asked for my name, looked me up, and said ok, no problem and asked, “What date do you want to restart?” I told him when, and that was that.
But before we got off the phone, I asked him what if I wanted to cancel?
Again, he said, sure no problem, just tell me when. I said I didn’t actually want to cancel but was just curious to find out.
This was much easier than I expected and really allows me to recommend Athletic Greens without any reservations.
As you can tell, I’m very happy with this product and I will continue my subscription. These opinions are my own and I purchase the product out of my own pocket.
If you’ve found this helpful and are interested in trying this out feel free to use this link or the banner provided below, which will give me a small commission at no additional cost to you.
I wanted to share some of the other reviews I’ve come across online when I was doing my initial research, so you can get other points of view. Some of these seemed a little too ad-like, which accounted for some of my initial skepticism, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide:
- Video review by Livvy Cunningham, Part 1 and Part 2
- Breakingmuscle.com review
- Superfoodrinks.org review
- Dietspotlight.com review
- Liftingrevolution.com review
- Bestsupplementsreviewed.com review
- Athleticgreensreview.com review
- Realdose.com review
- Fourhourbodysupplies.com review
What does Tim Ferriss think?
Like I mentioned, since I first heard of this from Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body when it was first published way back in 2010, I was curious to know if he was still using it and continues to stand by his recommendations.
Through the magic of Twitter, I asked him:
@bjjcaveman I do. Why?
— Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) November 4, 2014
Tim again reiterates this recommendation in one of his recent podcasts (The Tim Ferriss Show Ep 51) where he answers the listener question: “If you had to choose one favorite food supplement what would it be?” You can listen to full segment starting at 29:10…. or if you want to skip ahead to his answer, go to 31:16. Surprise, surprise… it’s Athletic Greens.